About the Project
Educational opportunities for women and girls became a focus of antebellum American efforts at reform. It was recognized that home and family life played an important part in a thriving society. Female seminaries began appearing in the early 19th century, preparing girls for their future roles as parents and educators. They provided a traditional curriculum in classical studies and religion, as well as an “ornamental” education, such as calligraphy, painting and drawing, and poetry writing. This book may well have been an assignment, showcasing the student’s training.
This skillfully decorated volume is held in the Dibner Library, part of the Smithsonian Libraries. It was compiled by Mary Jane Wynkoop in 1824, likely written while she was a student at Miss Gorham’s School in Elizabeth, New Jersey, still a rural area in the 1820’s. Some of the selections may be her own compositions. Included among the poetry and prose and charming illustrations are a series of conundrums, riddles, charades and other puzzles.
This carefully lettered and illustrated collection of poetry, prose and puzzles provides a glimpse into the education of a 14-year old girl, when formal schooling for middle class American females was first emerging. Help us transcribe it to better understand young women’s education in 1820’s America.